With love from love.

It was a day of certainties. The sat navy planned our route; we would arrive at 9.50, the gardens opened at 10.
The leaflet given to us on arrival told us the history of the gardens. It was described as “ a living work of art” views like scenes from a landscape painting. We were told this timeless masterpiece was a showcase of garden design; gothic buildings, trees all centred around a large lake.
We followed our guide and together a small group of us stepped into this unfamiliar landscape.
I stepped into another world, It was almost as if I took a step every so slightly sideways. The vast landscape wrapped its self around me delighting in my willingness to journey along its paths.
Hands reaching into the rich canopy of this accident woodland I longed to hear it’s story. To allow the whispers of this magical place to engulf my thoughts. To clear the fog that dulled my imagination. Allowing for possibilities outside of what I thought should be reality.
The further I explored this landscape the more it talked a language that I understood. It connected my mind to the journey / plans that God has for me.

I need to rewind at this point at take us back to the beginning.
As I said on arrival we choose wait to take the garden tour. To be shown around this magnificent garden rather than choose our own route. We followed our guide. We took the paths she choose stopping at places of interest not of our choosing.
We did not rush to the magnificent view for which this garden is so famous for. We stopped and waited for our guide to show us the way.
It was sometime during that waiting that I took my sideways step into a slightly different world. The excitement of the journey ahead, the unknown paths, the wait lifted my mind to another place.
I walked the paths set out by this gardeners creator ( Henry Hoare II ) allowing myself to see the garden from his view. I saw what he wanted me to see.
Amazing to think that 300 years ago this garden was new. Carefully planted and designed to delight its visitors. Today it’s still capturing the imagination and delighting the visitors that travel it’s paths.
As I walked I shared something Henry Hoare’s vision. It’s a vision that has reached maturity yet its still growing and changing, at the same time remains true to its original purpose.
This garden really did have a story to tell.
Thats why I was so excited about my visit to Stourhead ( National trust house and gardens ).

Life’s about the journey. A journey planned ahead of us, ready and waiting for us to walk on the paths that God has set out before us.
As I journey along these paths I do not travel alone. I journey with God even when I stray from the path. God waits patiently for me .
His plans for me are not my plans. The journey is mine to travel. I have the free will to take any path of my choosing, I have the free will to race though life going so fast I fail notice the beauty of journey.

God used this landscape to meet me, over flowing with emotions buzzing with excitement God talked to me though this landscape. Connecting me spiritually with my life journey.
The slippery paths, the difficult paths, paths shaded by woodland, paths across open countryside soaking up the summers sun.
All these paths told me stories of my own life; dark times, times when I have needed support, prayerful times, the good and not so good. All a part of the rich journey God has planned for me.
I felt a powerful reassurance that the path I am following is the right one. Even though I have no idea of its route or the difficulties ahead, it’s the path I need to stay on.

Journey to the final view ( the main reason for the visit )

The guided walk gave me glimpses of this view as I walked towards it. The view was often blocked broken up and fragmented by the mature tress that edged the lake.
As I walked closer to the view so my journey become more reflective. The follies that I visited at the start of the walk were now in the distance. The harshness of these stone buildings softened and changed by their watery reflections mirrored onto the lake.
The garden continued to gave glimpses of what’s to come. Amid the decay of the woodland floor new growth resilient and abundant pushed its way though the rich mulch.
The view that I longed to see lost its importance. The journey / story was far greater than any ending I could have imagined .
The garden told me a story of love that never ends. Written and told by a loving father to his child.
The father knowing exactly what his child needed to hear.
The story was told with love from love.
The story told me do not to worry! You need to follow these paths, trust them, learn from them. The delight is not where you will be, but where you are now.

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Isaiah 55:8-9
[8] For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
[9] For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

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Doing things different.

This picture was taken in 1976, a 5 year old little girl presenting the lord mayor with a flower button hole. The occasion was the grand opening of the church’s Christmas sale .
The picture is staged for the local press. Everyone smiling and the little girl is doing just what is expected of her. The newspaper cutting shows us how life has changed. Lord mayors opening the Christmas fete is surely something only happen in years gone by.
The little girl at the front is me .

I had forgotten until recently about this photo. I can’t remember the day of the church sale. I can’t even remember the photo being taken. But I do know I was a member of a church community that loved me.
The photo shows me before I started school, before the education system started to erode the person that I longed to be. I was painfully shy and that made me different. Struggling with school work, daydreaming, instead of engaging with the written word.
I was told I was not good enough, told I did try.
These comments shaped me, shyness slowly developed into fear, and lack of confidence .The fear of words and shyness would start to rule over me.

I have been reconnecting with my childhood journey of faith. The child that still lives strongly within me is taking me back. Showing me that God has always been with me .
We are each called for a particular purpose, we’re supposed to be wildly different. We are called to show God’s love for us. Show this love in our actions / doing things different, the way we spend our money, the TV we choose to watch, the conversations we have.
The coolest thing is when the Holy Spirit lives within us we connect to our creative child within ourselves. We never lose our sense of wonder our world just gets bigger and more full of love.

Question 6 – The silent Wow – part 1

When I discover beautiful views, walk behind a waterfall, when I sit in the stillness of the garden the vastness and hugeness that comes from God is beyond words. It’s the moment when you just stop and feel that wow factor.
I’ve tried to blog about that wow moment, take the wow beyond three simple letters, give that silence space some meaning so that others can understand, but nothing comes close to sharing how I feel inside.
Exploring my vocation is very much in that vastness moment. It’s that wow with no words. Stopping in that wow to write what I feel I just find tears and no words.
This has been frustrating as during this discerning process of exploring my vocation I need to talk to others about what I am feeling in these wow moments.
Praying about it is great, it’s easy and natural to do. After all these are Gods plans not mine. God also knows what going on in my wordless silent wow moments. But for the past year these wows have manly stayed just between me and God.
Last month the frustrations of not being able to find the words all got too much. I wanted to run away from the whole process. Go and hide somewhere where the words Priest, Deacon, ordination, vocation and discernment do not exist. But obviously you can’t run from God, this too has also been very frustrating.
Where ever I go this hugeness comes with me. It’s like a nagging little earworm that whispers and keeps whispering. When I am completely quite its whispers are sometimes the only thing I hear.
It’s no longer avoidable, I need to think about the bigger picture. I am required to answer question 6 on the BAP registration form (Bishops advisory panel form )
Which ministry are you a candidate? 1. Deacon ( distinctive) 2. Priest
All I need to do is tick one box . Deep down and for a long time I have known which box to tick. Ticking and acknowledging this is harder than I thought.
It seems wrong to give the answer to something so big by simply putting biro tick in a box. It’s so huge, one little tick in a box and then onto question 7 !!
I felt the question was not mine to answer. It felt presumptuous giving so much certainty to such a question. It’s a not promised path, It’s another step on the journey of exploring my vocation. Another step along an unknowing path trusting God.
I am sure many have filled out this huge form and boldly ticked the box. Feeling confident in their calling. But for me these two little boxes have been consuming my thoughts.
It feels such a huge relief to have faced this, to no longer feel quite so scared of what I am feeling. The last few months I have been nudged, loved, prayed for and gently coaxed to find the words that are etched in my heart.

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Acts 6 The Message (MSG)

6 1-4 During this time, as the disciples were increasing in numbers by leaps and bounds, hard feelings developed among the Greek-speaking believers—“Hellenists”—toward the Hebrew-speaking believers because their widows were being discriminated against in the daily food lines. So the Twelve called a meeting of the disciples. They said, “It wouldn’t be right for us to abandon our responsibilities for preaching and teaching the Word of God to help with the care of the poor. So, friends, choose seven men from among you whom everyone trusts, men full of the Holy Spirit and good sense, and we’ll assign them this task. Meanwhile, we’ll stick to our assigned tasks of prayer and speaking God’s Word.”

Richness which is poor.

One of my favourite parts of the garden is the area set aside as a meadow.
Impoverished soil is what’s needed when growing wildflower meadows.
I love the huge amount of work that is required to keep the soil poor. Constantly working to get the right balance between flowers and grasses.
My soil is slowly getting poorer and the richness that comes from this is both breathtaking and beautiful .
The area is so diverse ; butterflies, bees and insects enjoy the meadow by day. By night it’s alive with insects and those that hunt by dark ; moths, tawny owls and bats.
Its stunningly untamed ,unpredictable, it excites me every time I journey its paths.
I embrace it’s randomness, it’s freedom, it’s non conforming growth it’s just stunning in its simplicity.
I am constantly looking at ways to enhance my meadow. Looking for ways in which it can be more diverse, expanding it’s growing season, adding flowers that are not only beautiful to the eye but provide valuable food to the wildlife in the garden.
Running my hands through my meadow allows me feel it, breath in its joy. When I connect with the garden in such a deep meaningful way. I connect with God too, my two worlds ( physical and Spiritual) seamlessly become one.

My six this Saturday are all from my meadow- Please enjoy.

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The meadow gives and enriches. Jesus frees us and enriches us.

 

2 Corinthians 9 Good News Translation (GNT)
9 You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; rich as he was, he made himself poor for your sake, in order to make you rich by means of his poverty.

 

Journeying beyond my boundaries.

Day 39 – Lent Challenge – Freedom.

My penultimate blog for lent. 39 blogs on people that have changed and influenced my life. It’s a thank you an acknowledgement to some amazing people that I have been privileged to know, and in some cases love.
Writing the blogs has been a little bit of an epic journey. Some blogs I have had to work desperately hard to find the words that tell my story. It’s been very emotional at times, I find healing in the writing.

This blog is a thank you to a very individual down to earth man. I have so much respect for him, he showed great friendship and kindness. He also took me beyond my comfort zone, allowing me to experience the joys of being happy in my own skin.

Understanding my own journey to happiness is individual to me, not to compare myself to others. Learning that expressing my thoughts even if those around me do not think the same as me is ok.
He helped me take my first steps to seeing the freedom of thinking different. He helped me find the confidence that was buried very deep within myself, bringing it slightly nearer the surface. I found joy in being myself, making me feel more motivated and more determined to challenge myself, to be adventurous.
He taught me the values of being me and never forgetting how important that is.
He believed in me, he trusted me to push myself but also gave me space for when things become to uncomfortable.
I smile when I think about our times together. The journeys to visit him and his wife. The evenings spent on the edge of the Mendips sat in their garden watching shooting stars.
His funeral that filled the tiny parish church. He was a special one of kind type of person.
Although I am shy and lack confidence.I am happy in my own skin and have been for many years. The confidence that he taught me was a inner confidence. It stayed inside without the voice until I found my faith.

I am revisiting the area that he lived more frequently at the moment.
A journey that followers the same roads but with a completely different destination.
I journey that will need me or push myself in ways that I have yet to think possible.
A journey that scares me far more than excites me. Discovering and responding to Gods call, journeying beyond my boundaries.

It’s stepping out to follow where Gods voice is calling me. Finding my faith has given purpose and reason to challenge myself. Allowing confidence that has been locked away inside to grow. God has given me a voice and with that voice comes adventure, love, hope to a destination yet unknown.

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Jeremiah 29:13 Good News Translation (GNT)
13 You will seek me, and you will find me because you will seek me with all your heart.

Biblical hope has its foundational roots in love.

Day 38 – Lent Challenge – Hope

Blogging about the word hope has not been as straight forward as I thought. I have struggled with this simple 4 letter word. Of course I hope but on it’s own the word “hope” just seemed so week.
I really wanted to try and work out my thinking behind this. Spending time outside walking and praying my reasons started to become slightly clearer.
Walking and praying personally works for me. Being outside the man-made barriers that can distract me from prayer are removed and overpowered by the beauty of creation.
While walking the silent conversations of prayer are echoed in the rhythm of my footsteps. In that silent space the Holy Spirit listens and talks to my heart. I find myself questioning my questions and in some spiritual bizarre way I start to answer my own questions myself.
But it’s almost as if God makes me work for the answers as a teacher would. Encouraging me to use the knowledge I already have. To look and deeper within myself to gain more knowledge to join up my thinking.
At the moment is my heart is full of words that my head is not quiet ready to yet join up.
I am sure in time God will help me find the wisdom to form these connections. But Gods time is not considering my need to finish and publish this blog today,
So I am going to try and explain why I feel hope on it’s own is just not enough.
I’ve always had hope in my life, I’ve hoped and dreamed for myself and others.
It’s only when hope and faith meet Gods love did my life transform,.

Faith is my firm belief and trust in God. Through the Holy Spirit my faith grows.I get to know God better. Hope is the possibilities that come from experiencing Gods love. It’s a love that inspires me by my actions to see the potential of my faith. My faith is never still, it grows and changes as God challenges and changes me. Faith gives hope and that hope strengthens my love for Jesus, so my faith grows. Love empowers hope, You can’t have hope without faith, or faith without hope. Without faith, hope is just a powerless wish.

During my walk and prayers I felt that this blog should be a thank you midwife that delivered our daughter. Childbirth, love, faith and hope are so intertwined.( That’s another blog for another day).

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Jeremiah 29:11-13 Good News Translation (GNT)
11 I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for.[a] 12 Then you will call to me. You will come and pray to me, and I will answer you. 13 You will seek me, and you will find me because you will seek me with all your heart.

A Prayer for my sister.

Day 34 – Lent challenge – Accept.

I sat on my mums lap, her arms wrapped around me. She moved slowly and rhythmically as she held me in her arms. It comes so naturally to her. We sat together with other families listening to the story of Jacob and Esau.
A story where sibling rivalry try’s to distort and destroy all it touches. The story of two bothers fighting over the love of their father, fighting over what they both consider to be rightfully theirs. It’s God that sees these two brother reunited .
My beautiful mother knows so well the pain caused when siblings fight each other. You see my sister and I are not exactly the best of friends.

This lack of friendship does not stop me loving my sister. Just as last night I was not to big ( just over sized ) to sit on my mums lap. Being held in her love surrounded by Gods love.
Listening to a story that in so many ways echoes my own relationship with my sister.
Our story is a painful story. The saddest thing about our story is we both hurt the person we love; our mum. I can no longer accept this. I would never want my actions to hurt others. So why do I constantly hurt my mum.
The biggest reason is fear. It’s a selfish fear for which I am sorry. It’s a fear that my sister will hurt me as she has done in the past. I fear her scheming, deception and the way she can manipulate me. Taking advantage of my weaknesses, leading me to a place of trust only to hurt me as she has done before.
This is no longer an acceptable way to behave. I no longer have to face these fears alone, I am ready to move forward. Taking that leap of faith, knowing that wherever I land God will be with me. In my weakness, he is strong. I pray that we can be reconciled together in some way. What ever way this happens I know God will be a part of that reunion. A reunion that will give peace and joy to my mum.

Last night as we were listened to the story of Jacob and Esau the listening turned into acting. The last part of this story is reconciliation and of course a hug. It’s amazing how much more powerful words are when accompanied by actions. We all played roles, I was one of many donkeys. Jacob and Esau were played by twin boys. Seeing these boys walk towards each other and give each other a awkward hug was profound and moving . After a hug we had prayers. We prayed for people that we wanted to build relationships with. We prayed for broken relationships and healing.
Praying with children and their families is always a privilege and a joy. Being with them as they explore and grow in faith is awesome . I get so excited by their prayers. The language the children use to talk to God is always so pure and humbling. It excites me how obvious children make faith, how uncompleted it is to them. As adults we over complicate something so simple and beautiful as prayer.

A Prayer for my sister.

Loving God
This is pray for my sister.
I pray from my heart through you to her heart.
I ask that we see each other and love each other as sisters should.
That in this loving we heal past hurts and soothe past deeds.
I ask for forgiveness for the pain we both cause to each other and those that love us.
I pray that our families can be joined in love, your love.
Lord I ask that somehow you open doors and opportunities for our relationships to heal and grow.
That we will have the wisdom to see and use these opportunities for love. That from that love friendships may form and grow.
I pray for the sense and understanding to be realistic and accept the path this journey will take.
Please give me the strength to listen to you. I ask that my words will be kind, my thoughts loving and my actions sincere.
I ask that we will find peace hope and forgiveness as we journey with you.
Amen.

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2 Corinthians 12:9 Good News Translation (GNT)
9 But his answer was: “My grace is all you need, for my power is greatest when you are weak.” I am most happy, then, to be proud of my weaknesses, in order to feel the protection of Christ’s power over me.